The Earth will find itself in the Moon’s shadow once again, as a total solar eclipse is set to occur on Tuesday this week. Much of the eclipse’s path, though, will be in the South Pacific Ocean, not easily visible to humans.
Parts of Chile and Argentina, however, will be able to see the entire eclipse, meaning the Moon will completely block the Sun, as these regions fall within its 6,000-mile radius.
That said, even the zones in Chile and Argentina that will catch the eclipse will have to wait and see if they’ll be able to witness the spectacle. It’s winter time in the Southern Hemisphere, and with that comes more temperamental weather conditions.
Larger and more unpredictable clouds and weather changes occur more regularly at this time of year in these regions.
But, weather permitting, the rewards will be very high, as this solar eclipse will offer stunning amber colors if caught.
Unpredictable viewing conditions
La Serena, a coastal city in Chile that lies 250 miles north of Santiago, the country’s capital city, will be one of the areas to experience the total eclipse. Due to its coastal location, however, the city can easily be buried beneath large numbers of clouds – which would block the view of the spectacle.
Adding to the mix is the fact that the eclipse is occurring during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter. With the eclipse happening at 4:38 pm local time, a mere hour and 18 minutes before the sun is due to set, which makes viewing the total eclipse even trickier.
If the weather wasn’t enough to make matters tough, the fact that only one major road, Route 41, leads to the path of totality, a large amount of traffic could mean missing the eclipse altogether.
Astrotourists, by the hundreds of thousands, will have to be in position by lunchtime, if they wish to grab a viewing spot.
Weather and traffic conditions aside, the terrain is another matter. With many mountains and hills dotting the Chilean countryside, location will be of high importance in order to catch the eclipse.
Many viewpoints will be shadowed by the looming mountains and hills which will complicate finding a clear, unobstructed viewing point for the eclipse.
Worth the effort
Putting these matters aside, the rewards will be unquestionable.
Due to this year’s shape and speed of the umbra (the dark center of its shadow) of the Moon, the sight will be spectacular.
As the eclipse is happening shortly before sunset, the coloring will be richer and we'll see beautiful amber colors.
Because the Sun will be lower in the sky, the umbra will be longer - much like a person's shadow with a low-lying Sun. This, in turn, will put more stars on display, creating a sparkly event.
Chile is a well-known haven for astronomers. Due to its low light pollution, its skies are darker and offer much higher visibility. This is the reason why some of the world’s best observatories are positioned at La Serena in Chile, such as La Silla or Gemini South.
These observatories will be directly in the path of eclipse totality; meaning that they will be able to see the total solar eclipse. Other locations in its path, which are not in the totality section will see the Moon with a bite chunked out of it.